Recently, while visiting Morocco, I witnessed a heart-wrenching sight: A street leading into Casablanca was lined with women, many with children at their sides, holding their passports in one hand and reaching out with the other for help from passing motorists. Our driver stopped often to drop coins into their outstretched hands. When I asked about the situation, he said these were Syrian refugees.
This disturbing scene flashed across my mind when I heard recently that there were more refugees today than resulted from the devastation that occurred during World War II.
I felt compelled to earnestly pray about the refugee situation. As I did, I remembered reading in the Bible that “Jesus was moved with compassion” before accomplishing many of his healing works (see, for example, Matthew 14:14).
“Moved”? To many of us, “moved” means going from one place to another. And it can also mean to be emotionally touched. Jesus’ feeling of compassion actually moved him to pray, and these prayers healed people. For him, healing was witnessing the power of God’s love, which is available to each of us here and now, as well as in Jesus’ time. Prayerfully insisting that power belongs to God, good, not to devastation, reveals God’s goodness in our lives.
From my years as a Christian Scientist, I have found that prayer is the most effective way to address troublesome situations. A book by Mary Baker Eddy, who dedicated her life to understanding the Bible and Jesus’ healings, makes clear that prayer is more than just something to make us feel better when we encounter disturbing situations. Prayer is a communing with the divine that puts us in touch with God and God’s omnipotent power of good. As we are moved with compassion, we enter into that holy place of prayer, which changes our thinking and acting, and healing results.
Instead of thinking of people as hopeless and in hopeless situations, we consciously place our trust in the might and love of God as a healing and saving power. This acts in our own thought, changing it from believing in the negative scenes that are presented to us to actually seeing what is possible to a loving God. As Mrs. Eddy puts it, “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 494).
Not only did I find comfort in that passage, I also found some concrete thoughts on which I could base my prayer. It speaks to me of God’s love and provision for His creation. As I prayed about the refugees, I affirmed that God’s love and care for each of His children are there for them, helping them to rise above their trials and feel a sense of home no matter where they are.
The compassion I felt for the refugees I saw in Morocco, which extended to all those seeking sanctuary today, has compelled me to go more deeply into prayer. I ask God to show me His love for His creation. This changes my perception of situations, and I begin to see things from the standpoint of divinity. In prayer, it becomes clear that God’s goodness is the always-present, always-active reality in our lives. Seeing the presence of God with all of us, everywhere, results in human needs being met. As a result of prayer, I’ve seen health restored, grief healed, employment gained, just to name a few ways we can experience God’s help in times of trouble.
When it came to expressing compassion toward others, I used to avert my eyes whenever I saw a homeless person in my own community. It was easier to turn away than to engage with God in a healing way to address the need. When I prayed about this uncaring reaction, I began to see that compassion is a Christly quality that each of us can feel in our hearts. It moves us to help humanity. It inspires us to pray and expect to see healing, which is observable in outward change. Now I am inspired not only to reach into my wallet to share, but, more important, to reach into my heart to pray.
Bringing about change starts with us and is strengthened through our prayers. Maybe our individual efforts seem small, but they are a powerful force for good. What they do is help us understand God, which brings the goodness that is already present to light in our human experience, blessing humanity and bringing healing.